“Because it is 2015”. That was the answer from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to why he had chosen such a diverse parliament. And he is right, but if that is not enough reason, various research has shown that diverse teams perform better, in every aspect, also financially. In Davos, earlier this year Trudeau also articulated perfectly the benefits of diversity in the workplace: “Diversity isn’t just sound social policy – diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that enriches the world.”
When we co-founded Improve Digital in 2008, we knew we had a huge responsibility – and opportunity – to build a diverse company. And not just diversity in gender, but in the background of people, education and age. Diversity for us has never been about ‘checking the box’ to be politically correct – it has been the obvious way to generate better results and provide the entire team with a creative, interesting and fun work environment. And it has been the logic result of hiring the best people.
So we’re proud to release our numbers on diversity today. Of course they aren’t perfect, and we will always strive to do better, but certainly within the technology business we know we are doing well.
“Because it is 2015”. That was the answer from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Considering the huge gender imbalance in the technology industry, we’re especially proud to say that 51 per cent of our employees are female. In Fortune’s analysis of the top nine US tech companies diversity stats for 2014 (published last year), on average women comprised only a third of the workforce. That gap widened even further when looking at senior positions. Within Improve Digital, women make up 51 per cent of our senior leadership positions. We also have people from 19 different nationalities working for us, from different age groups.
We will release these figures annually – and invite other European technology companies to do the same. In the US, most tech companies release their diversity stats and I think it’s a positive way to make us all look at our own diversity issues and what needs to be done. HeForShe’s Impact 10x10x10 is a fantastic initiative in this regard as well. The commitment of their 10 Impact Champions has shown that measurement makes a difference.
As two women who have proved it’s possible (of course it is) to be both female and launch a very successful European tech company, we also decided to set up Inspiring Fifty in 2013, a non-profit organisation that showcases female role models in European tech. The ultimate aim is to address the gender imbalance in tech and we believe that highlighting female role models in the European tech community can inspire girls and young women looking to build a successful career path in the sector. We’ve had a tremendous response to Inspiring Fifty. Last year, we were invited to host a roundtable at 10 Downing Street, this year we are hosting a global event on diversity along with StartupDelta as part of the Dutch EU Presidency. We are also proud to have signed a partnership with Facebook whose goals with regards to diversity are very aligned with what we want to achieve with Inspiring Fifty. As we all know that unconscious bias plays an important role in the choices we make it is great that Facebook has decided to make their program to manage unconscious bias publicly available. We are all bias in a certain way and recognizing what these biases are is a first step towards building stronger, more diverse and inclusive organisations.
The topic of diversity is high on the agenda, and we’re passionate to play our part. In his speech, Prime Minister Trudeau also stated that “diversity is something leaders can do much about.” And for us this doesn’t just mean global political leaders – it means all leaders. And certainly in our industry we need leaders – both male and female – who are vocal about support for diversity to shift company culture and bring real change. In fact, anyone, at any level, can get involved and make a difference. Changes start from within, and even the smallest changes can make the biggest difference. At Improve Digital, we will continue to make changes.
Joelle Frijters and Janneke Niessen
Co-founders, Improve Digital